Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka has not ruled out the possibility of Kenneth Omeruo returning to the Riverside next term.
The on-loan Chelsea defender has made 11 starts for the Championship outfit since joining in January, forming a productive central defensive partnership with Ben Gibson.
While Omeruo will go back to his parent club next month, Karanka admits the Nigeria international could return on a season-long loan.
The Boro boss told the Gazette: "It could be possible, He's a good lad, a very good player, he is improving, he is going to go to the World Cup so I am very happy with him.
"He always gives 120% on the training pitch.
"Even when he wasn't playing he had a good attitude."
Omeruo, 20, and 21-year-old Gibson have played together in eight successive fixtures, keeping four clean sheets in that run, but they are now both suspended after receiving their marching orders in the 3-1 win over Birmingham last time.
Karanka added: "They have been doing a very good job.
"Ken arrived in January and when he arrived he didn't play but his attitude was always perfect.
"Gibbo made mistakes at the beginning but he improves every day and he will be very important for the future.
"He's shown me and everybody that he can play here for a long time because he is a young player with a good mentality, he wants to improve every day and learn and for this I am very happy."